Joburg Vegan

I've changed the name of the blog from Carciofi Rosso to Joburg Vegan. Please be patient while the changes happen, but I've been thinking about making a change for a while now.

NOT Vegan: Quorn Vegetarian Products


Quorn products contain egg white and milk. Sorry Vegans... Hope you didn't get excited.

I don't care much for processed fake meat or meat substitutes, I'm a lentils kind of girl. I would sincerely miss Nature's Choice dried soy chunks, because SpagBol/Mexican burritos/lasagne/sloppy joes would not be the same without. And whatever Conscious 108 is using in their food is also scrumptious. But aside from that, I'm really happy with the way vegetables taste.

I'm not interested in Quorn for many reasons, completely aside from the fact that it's not Vegan, and that is why I posted this. I was interested to see that restaurants are integrating Quorn into their menus, here and there, and I cannot understand it for the life of me. Fry's is local (albeit that we have our issues with them too) and their meat substitutes are cheaper, so why choose Quorn over Fry's? I'm sure that many Vegans are simply grateful when someone stocks something they can eat, but personally, I'm not eating at a restaurant so I can eat a Fry's sausage. I want to have something I can't make at home. And I feel somewhat the same about Quorn. It's unnecessary. I'd rather eat something delicious and chock-full of vegetables. But choosing Quorn for your menu seems illogical to me.

Rob Booth, owner of Café Maitreya in Bristol, England, agrees and is quoted in an article by the UK Independant that he doesn't use Quorn in his restaurant because: "he wants to celebrate what you can do with vegetarian food, he doesn't want to use a manufactured food product and he thinks Quorn is more suitable for home cooking."

I read about Quorn quite extensively in the last few hours and I found some interesting articles. wrote an article about Quorn products in which they state that some consumers are experiencing symptoms such as: "vomiting and diarrhoea, while others reported symptoms of fainting, blood in the stools and severe allergic reactions." Certainly this would be the minority and only people who are allergic to the key ingredient, a fungus called Mycoprotein. defines Mycoprotein:

"Mycoprotein is a highly processed product, produced by means of a fermentation process, which starts off with a natural type of fungus,  Fusarium venenatum. The fungi are put into a fermentation vat where they are fed glucose, oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, as well as vitamins, minerals and other secret ingredients. These elements allow the fungi to grow while the vat is kept at a constant temperature. Once it reaches its desired size, egg and seasoning are added to the mixture, which is cooked and turned into chunks. It is then frozen, resulting in a structure resembling meat."

I'm not a fan of the "secret ingredients" statement either. Who knows what that is... I've been skeptical about undeclared food and beverage production process since I found out that animal products and by-products are sometimes used in the production of liquor like wine and beer. Also, read Fungi and don't think mushrooms. Think highly genetically modified and processed fungus.

The class issue related to this product also bugs me. Fake meat products are generally a luxury, middle-class product, with the exception of some types of Soya mince, products like Quorn and Fry's are marketed to a higher income bracket. Quorn claims that they aim to end world hunger with Mycoprotein, which is a bloody ridiculous statement considering the cost comparisons done by Adrian Penzhorn on He worked out that the cost per 10g of protein for Quorn is R7.60, while that for cow's milk is R2.81 and for Fry's soy mince it's R4.80 (still cheaper than most real meat). At this price Quorn is by no means a solution as protein for the poor. In the article they write:

"One of the journalists attending the Cape Town event asked [that] if Quorn aimed to end world hunger, why were their products aimed mainly at the middle classes instead of poorer people? According to [their spokesperson], it was because they were still “assessing the situation”." The same spokesman has also been quoted to say that "It's ironic that a product which was created to address diseases of poverty can now address a disease of affluence." (Independent, 2009)

Considering Quorn has been around since 1985 after 21 years of research into Mycoprotein started in the 1960s, I think that the claim that they're "still assessing the situation" is nonsense. What their spokesperson surely meant to say was that the company has since decided not to give a fuck about that, but that the statement about ending world hunger still looks good in the byline. Quorn is expensive and a luxury product, I'm not sure why they're trying to pretend it isn't. If they wished to end world hunger they would have started donating Quorn products to the world's poorest communities a long time ago, but I find no evidence of this kind of thing.

In the publication Consuming the Inedible: Neglected Dimensions of Food Choice; Ellen Messer writes an article called Microbial Non-food Transformed into Food: Quorn Mycoprotein. She states that the 1960s was "an era of development, dominated by Malthusians, who worried about populations outstripping food supplies and sought solutions for world hunger and malnutrition as lying in the provision of more food, especially protein that could close the alleged 'protein gap', a priority nutrition problem." She also writes later in the article, concluding the issue about mycoprotein as a saviour, that "since the 1970s, nutritionists had been debating whether food energy, protein or micronutrients should be the priority world-hunger problem; by the 1980s, other economic experts and food activists, following Amartya Sen and Frances Moore Lappe, asserted that hunger was a problem of food and nutritional entitlements, i.e. a failure of livelihoods, markets, human rights and social justice, not just a problem of food or of particular nutrients. In this transformed context of development, the 'world hunger' rationale for producing mycoprotein disappeared entirely. In its place, Marlow Foods framed and marketed their product to a new target consumer group: First World vegetarians and all those who wanted to limit their intakes of animal foods, whether for ideological, political, environmental, nutritional or health reasons."

Messer continues to state about the previously mentioned health concerns that "curiously, up until 2002, there appeared very little publicity surrounding the health and safety of this novel product. This changed when the product reached the US, with its activist food NGO, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), headed by Michael Jacobson. Jacobson (2002), in a letter to the EC Commission for Health and Consumer Protection in Brussels, argued that Quorn was not safe, and furthermore, that it was mislabeled and misrepresented as mushroom-like, when in fact it is a mould, which individuals sensitive to mould eat only at great personal risk."

Messer concludes that "the desirability of eating a 'healthy' low-fat meat-substitute apparently overrode concerns over Quorn's possibly unhealthy fungal and transnational-corporate origins."

Exponent Private Equity, the parent company that owns Quorn Foods, hold a number of varied companies in their portfolio, including Radley Handbags which are made from, you guessed it, leather. Even the fabric bags have leather straps. I know it's hard to get away from these sort of issues, because companies are often owned by a bigger company that does questionable things. But the single Vegan burger that they have currently means little ethically when Quorn still uses eggs in everything else and the money goes to a company buying and selling kilometers of leather annually. Compassion over Killing also stated that "Quorn are also actively reducing its use of eggs overall, using 3.5 million fewer eggs since 2010." I guess this is a step in the right direction and a win for the supposed 14 000 chickens that aren't laying eggs for Quorn anymore.

I enjoyed the comment about the Quorn advertising campaign in a 2009 UK Guardian article in which Alex Renton states acerbically that, "Why waste the £7m on posters and TV ads? Make Quorn free and it could be the Google of food. Now that's what I call Qlever." Perhaps even more so if there were no animals impacted by its production. I know that we can get into a spiral of ethics and obviously everyone needs to make up their own minds about to what degree they let these sorts of factors influence their decisions, but I just thought that we needed a little local criticality and dissent related to this strange space-age product being sold to us (started being developed in the 1960s, remember?) and that perhaps it's not all it's cut out to be by its marketing agents.

Perron Mexican Restaurant Illovo

There's a new Mexican restaurant in Illovo called Perron Mexican Appreciation Society and it's quickly gaining momentum as the best in Jo'burg. We've got a few reasonably mediocre and samey Mexican joints and this one seems promising. One of the owners is also vegetarian, so there are great Veg options. Check out their menu! I will report properly when I've eaten there, but in the mean time, I will tell you that people are saying good things on the internet and away from keyboard. The food is fresh, tasty, yummy and the margaritas are divine.

I'm not sure how Vegan friendly they are but I would imagine it would be easy to accommodate vegans. Note that the imitation meat they use is Quorn which is definitely not Vegan as 99% of Quorn products contain egg white. Also, this is a very interesting article about Quorn.

In the mean time, I hope to try it soon and I will write again the moment I know more.

Über Vegan - Greenside

Owner of Greenside Cafe and Über Vegan - Photo by Nicki Bentley
Über Vegan in Greenside is the new Vegan shop on the block. Right next door to the Greenside Cafe, it's run by their team and they stock some lovely things. I don't think there is anything in the Greenside shop that you wouldn't find at a number of other health stores but the prices are more or less in the same range and if you live close by it's easy to pop in and grab something if you know they stock it.

They stock some great organic teas, a selection of Nature's Choice and Superfoods products, they stock some milk alternatives, a small variety of vegan and raw cook books that I'm coveting but haven't bought yet and a fun new local range called Ansteys No. 1 Vegan Foods. They make vegan butter and vegan cream cheese that looks delicious, but I am also yet to try these.

Über Vegan - Photo by Nicki Bentley
VeganSA wrote an article about the Ansteys products that you might enjoy reading in full, but it basically just gushes about how delicious the options are and that they're looking at expanding the range of dairy imitations. The fun thing, I must say, will be the butter. It sounds fantastic:

Ansteys also have a Vegan Herbed Cottage Cheese and a Vegan Philedelphia Style Cream Cheese:

There are also a bunch of raw snacks like dehydrated Kale and other Leafy Greens products on sale at Über Vegan. You will also find supplements and vitamins that seem to more or less cover the basics. After a long run of strange little shops that failed in that space, I truly hope that this shop is finally the one that will last, but I think they've got the right idea.

Thai Cafe - New Greenside Restaurant

thai café

This new Greenside restaurant has quite a number of vegetarian options of which most seem to be vegan. Check that there isn't shrimp paste in the curry paste they use for their Gaeng Pak. They're open seven days a week and their food looks promising. Will update once we've tried it.

Leafy Greens Nirox Pop Up Restaurant - Sunday 8 June 2014


New Vegan Shop in Greenside, JHB

The Greenside Cafe has opened a little shop next door to the restaurant. The shop sells some products that I haven't seen elsewhere yet, like Ansteys food products. They make vegan butter and cream cheese!

There are several other items stocked and I suspect that their inventory will grow. The shop also has a selection of delicious teas and a number of Nature's Choice products. Go there to stock up on Superfoods and buy cook books. They also have sprouting jars for sale.


Mildred's - London

Mildred's is an amazing vegetarian restaurant in London's bustling Soho. Just off Regent Street, this restaurant is overwhelmingly busy, even on a Monday night with all sorts of people filtering in and out. The menu is diverse, but small enough not to feel overwhelmed with choice, and the food all looks delicious. The dishes that I tried were magnificent - a coconut yellow curry with lots of veg, rice and cashew nuts, deep fried dumplings and vegetable gyoza, all fantastic. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting London, a must for vegans and vegetarians.


Happy Cow

HappyCow is a site that lists vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurants, amongst a great variety of articles about other veg concerns and a good number of recipes. This is a site that is community run and contributed to by anyone who registers an account with them. Registration is a quick and painless process and you get to review restaurants listed, add restaurants or even connect with other users.

I've recently been paying a little more attention to HappyCow because I'm about to go to London and they are still the best place on the internet to see where to eat in foreign countries. This lovely site cuts out a lot of trawling of blogs and sifting of information.

In paying attention, I looked at what was listed for South Africa and the Johannesburg listings were a sad affair. The Cape Town list was a lot more thorough, and someone seems to update it regularly, which is great. I wish to urge my fellow South African vegans and vegetarians to participate on this fantastic site. Please write reviews, please list restaurants you go to regularly. HappyCow has provided me with such great assistance in China, Europe and the United States, that I can only hope we can help them provide this service to South Africans or veggies looking to visit South Africa.


New York Horse and Carriage Ban on the cards

Animal Rights activists have been petitioning to replace the horse drawn carriages in Central Park, New York with electric cars. The horses are subjected to long work hours, traffic, freezing cold weather and other extremities year-long, with a mandatory five week break in between. There is a lot of fuss on the news circuit about Mayor De Blasio's attempt to stop animal cruelty. Read about it in the Wall Street Journal or Google it for more information.

Vegan Mayor in Texas

Ed Smith, the five-term mayor of Marshall, with his wife, Amanda, changed his diet after a cancer diagnosis in 2008. Image from New York Times articles.

Marshall, Texas in the USA has a vegan mayor! It seems like veganism is becoming much more widely followed, but everyone has their own reasons. After being diagnosed with cancer, Ed Smith turned to a plant based, whole food diet, as they like to call it. It's less about being ethical and far more focused on health. Read more on the New York Times site.

Conscious 108

A new vegan restaurant has opened in Johannesburg! Conscious 108 has been open in Greenside for several weeks now and makes delicious meals. This spot has lovely decor and a warm atmosphere. They have quirky and original touches, like the book boxes they bring your bill in or the little floating shelves, or even the fun filament light bulbs hanging from the wooden beams stretched across the ceiling.

They bring the naughty side of vegan food including all sorts of confectionery. They have chocolate brownies and ice cream! I'm very pleased with this place. I would recommend the mexican burrito bean wrap (whatever they call it) and the 'chicken' mayo sandwich. Their ginger seitan with snow peas is also very good. The bunny chow is impressive too, but you should save some room for dessert!

It's great to have a vegan restaurant that's open on week nights. Try the hot chocolate. There is a delightful surprise in the bottom of the drink

Also check out this review by Joburg's Darling, a sworn carnivore that loves Conscious 108 for what it is... Some of the things she says make me cringe, but she raves about the food and that's what I'm trying to show you.

We've been back to Conscious 108 several times now and I think it's really great. Their food is delicious. I would advise against any expectations for off menu treats or even ice cream on a Wednesday, because as they close on Tuesday, they aren't always fully prepared for service at lunch time the following day.